The High Court has wide powers under section 482 of the Cr PC. These are some recent decisions on the scope of the powers:
Neeharika Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. v State of Maharashtra & Ors. [2021 SCC OnLine SC 315] (Supreme Court of India, 3-judge bench)
The Appellant/complainant appealed against an interim order passed by the Bombay High Court directing that “no coercive measures shall be adopted” against the accused persons in a petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution read with Section 482 Cr.P.C. seeking quashing of the FIR.
The principal issue before the Supreme Court was (para 33)
when and where the High Court would be justified in passing an interim order either staying the further investigation in the FIR/complaint or interim order in the nature of “no coercive steps” and/or not to arrest the accused either pending investigation by the police/investigating agency or during the pendency of the quashing petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and/or under Article 226 of the Constitution of India pending before the High Court?
The Supreme Court held inter alia that in considering petitions under Section 482 Cr.P.C, the High Court only has to consider whether the FIR allegations disclose a cognizable offence; and is not required to consider whether the merits of the allegations make out a cognizable offence. The Supreme Court further held that these parameters apply even when granting interim orders of stay on investigation or “no coercive steps” in quashing petitions. The Supreme Court directed that even when these parameters for passing such interim orders are met, High Courts must give brief reasons explaining why such an interim order is warranted to demonstrate application of mind, and to allow a higher forum to consider what the High Court had weighed before passing such an order.
Extracts of the Supreme Court’s relevant findings (para 80) include:
iii) It is only in cases where no cognizable offence or offence of any kind is disclosed in the first information report that the Court will not permit an investigation to go on;
iv) The power of quashing should be exercised sparingly with circumspection, as it has been observed, in the ‘rarest of rare cases (not to be confused with the formation in the context of death penalty).
v) While examining an FIR/complaint, quashing of which is sought, the court cannot embark upon an enquiry as to the reliability or genuineness or otherwise of the allegations made in the FIR/complaint;…
xvi) The aforesaid parameters would be applicable and/or the aforesaid aspects are required to be considered by the High Court while passing an interim order in a quashing petition in exercise of powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and/or under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. However, an interim order of stay of investigation during the pendency of the quashing petition can be passed with circumspection. Such an interim order should not require to be passed routinely, casually and/or mechanically. Normally, when the investigation is in progress and the facts are hazy and the entire evidence/material is not before the High Court, the High Court should restrain itself from passing the interim order of not to arrest or “no coercive steps to be adopted” and the accused should be relegated to apply for anticipatory bail under Section 438 Cr.P.C. before the competent court. The High Court shall not and as such is not justified in passing the order of not to arrest and/or “no coercive steps” either during the investigation or till the investigation is completed and/or till the final report/chargesheet is filed under Section 173 Cr.P.C., while dismissing/disposing of the quashing petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and/or under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
xvii) Even in a case where the High Court is prima facie of the opinion that an exceptional case is made out for grant of interim stay of further investigation, after considering the broad parameters while exercising the powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and/or under Article 226 of the Constitution of India referred to hereinabove, the High Court has to give brief reasons why such an interim order is warranted and/or is required to be passed so that it can demonstrate the application of mind by the Court and the higher forum can consider what was weighed with the High Court while passing such an interim order.
xviii) Whenever an interim order is passed by the High Court of “no coercive steps to be adopted” within the aforesaid parameters, the High Court must clarify what does it mean by “no coercive steps to be adopted” as the term “no coercive steps to be adopted” can be said to be too vague and/or broad which can be misunderstood and/or misapplied.
Ravuri Krishna Murthy v. State of Telangana & Ors. [2021 SCC OnLine SC 388] (Supreme Court of India, 2-judge bench)
The appeal was filed against an Andhra Pradesh High Court order in which the Single Judge dismissed a petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C. seeking quashing of the impugned FIR, yet granted a blanket order of protection from arrest to one of the accused.
The Supreme Court held the High Court erred in passing a blanket restraint on arrest, particularly when it had no found no merit in the quashing petition. Such a direction was held to constitute a serious obstruction in the enforcement of criminal justice, which was compounded by the fact that the High Court had not offered any justifications for its blanket order. (para 10)